Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre: Ch. 14

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Chapter XIV

For several subsequent days I saw little of Mr. Rochester.  In the mornings he seemed much engaged with business, and, in the afternoon, gentlemen from Millcote or the neighbourhood called, and sometimes stayed to dine with him.  When his sprain was well enough to admit of horse exercise, he rode out a good deal; probably to return these visits, as he generally did not come back till late at night.

During this interval, even Adèle was seldom sent for to his presence, and all my acquaintance with him was confined to an occasional rencontrew in the hall, on the stairs, or in the gallery, when he would sometimes pass me haughtily and coldly, just acknowledging my presence by a distant nod or a cool glance, and sometimes bow and smile with gentlemanlike affability.  His changes of mood did not offend me, because I saw that I had nothing to do with their alternation; the ebb and flow depended on causes quite disconnected with me.

One day he had had company to dinner, and had sent for my portfolio; in order, doubtless, to exhibit its contents: the gentlemen went away early, to attend a public meeting at Millcote, as Mrs. Fairfax informed me; but the night being wet and inclement, Mr. Rochester did not accompany them.  Soon after they were gone he rang the bell: a message came that I and Adèle were to go downstairs.  I brushed Adèle’s hair and made her neat, and having ascertained that I was myself in my usual Quaker trim, where there was nothing to retouch—all being too close and plain, braided locks included, to admit of disarrangement—we descended, Adèle wondering whether the petit coffrew was at length come; for, owing to some mistake, its arrival had hitherto been delayed.  She was gratified: there it stood, a little carton, on the table when we entered the dining-room.  She appeared to know it by instinct.

“Ma boite!w ma boite!” exclaimed she, running towards it.

“Yes, there is your ‘boite’ at last: take it into a corner, you genuine daughter of Paris, and amuse yourself with disembowelling it,” said the deep and rather sarcastic voice of Mr. Rochester, proceeding from the depths of an immense easy-chair at the fireside.  “And mind,” he continued, “don’t bother me with any details of the anatomical process, or any notice of the condition of the entrails: let your operation be conducted in silence: tiens-toi tranquille, enfant; comprends-tu?”w

Adèle seemed scarcely to need the warning—she had already retired to a sofa with her treasure, and was busy untying the cord which secured the lid.  Having removed this impediment, and lifted certain silvery envelopes of tissue paper, she merely exclaimed—

“Oh ciel!  Que c’est beau!”w and then remained absorbed in ecstatic contemplation.

“Is Miss Eyre there?” now demanded the master,(d) half rising from his seat to look round to the door, near which I still stood.

“Ah! well, come forward; be seated here.”  He drew a chair near his own.  “I am not fond of the prattle of children,” he continued; “for, old bachelor as I am, I have no pleasant associations connected with their lisp.  It would be intolerable to me to pass a whole evening tête-à-tête with a brat.  Don’t draw that chair farther off, Miss Eyre; sit down exactly where I placed it—if you please, that is.  Confound these civilities!  I continually forget them.  Nor do I particularly affect simple-minded old ladies.  By-the-bye, I must have mine in mind; it won’t do to neglect her; she is a Fairfax, or wed to one; and blood is said to be thicker than water.”

He rang, and despatched an invitation to Mrs. Fairfax, who soon arrived, knitting-basket in hand.

“Good evening, madam; I sent to you for a charitable purpose.  I have forbidden Adèle to talk to me about her presents, and she is bursting with repletion: have the goodness to serve her as auditress and interlocutrice;d it will be one of the most benevolent acts you ever performed.”

Adèle, indeed, no sooner saw Mrs. Fairfax, than she summoned her to her sofa, and there quickly filled her lap with the porcelain, the ivory, the waxen contents of her “boite;” pouring out, meantime, explanations and raptures in such broken English as she was mistress of.

X [w] rencontre

A re-encounter.

X [w] petit coffre

Little box, coffer.

X [w] boite!


X [w] tiens-toi tranquille, enfant; comprends-tu?”

"Keep calm, child; do you understand?"

X [w] “Oh ciel! Que c’est beau!”

"Oh, heavens. How beautiful it is!"

X [(d)] “Is Miss Eyre there?” now demanded the master…


X [d] auditress and interlocutrice;

Writing & Reading

Jane's language at times seems affected, as here by her giving a feminine ending to an English word that doesn't specify gender—auditor or interlocutor.